Northern Health says it will be adjusting services to strengthen patient safety due to existing staffing challenges and Omicron-related COVID-19 staffing pressures. Surgical service postponements are planned or ongoing in the coming weeks at hospitals in Prince George, Hazelton, Smithers and Dawson Creek. (UBC photo)

Northern Health says it will be adjusting services to strengthen patient safety due to existing staffing challenges and Omicron-related COVID-19 staffing pressures. Surgical service postponements are planned or ongoing in the coming weeks at hospitals in Prince George, Hazelton, Smithers and Dawson Creek. (UBC photo)

Staffing crunch: Northern Health announces temporary service changes

Staffing levels are being impacted by existing challenges and COVID-19

Surgical services will be temporarily postponed at several hospitals in northern B.C. due to existing staffing challenges and COVID-19 related staffing pressures.

Northern Health (NH) made the announcement Tuesday, Jan. 18.

“Northern Health is proactively identifying services to be adjusted as we manage the ongoing staffing impacts on the health system, to ensure we can continue to provide safe patient care,” NH president and CEO, Cathy Ulrich said in a news release.

“Existing staffing challenges in the north are compounded by Omicron-related impacts, and some staff will need to be temporarily reassigned within communities in the region, to ensure essential service levels.”

Surgical service postponements are planned or ongoing in the coming weeks at the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George, the Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton and the Bulkley Valley District Hospital in Smithers.

Read More: Federal modelling shows COVID-19 hospitalizations to surge

Surgical and ambulatory care procedures will also be impacted at facilities in the northeast, including Dawson Creek and District Hospital.

In long-term care (LTC), staffing at sites across the region is being monitored daily. NH noted that several LTC facilities have paused admissions and are operating fewer beds to ensure safe provision of care within existing staffing levels.

Outpatient laboratory services, outpatient ambulatory clinics and some community care services will be temporarily reduced in some communities.

Situation response teams are currently in place to support site managers in Hazelton and Burns Lake that are experiencing staffing challenges across all facilities and services.

“The pandemic has placed inordinate pressure on health care workers in Northern Health across all service areas, but we have also seen innovation and creativity in addressing these challenges,” Ulrich said.

“I thank everyone working in health care in northern B.C. for their extraordinary commitment and dedication to the health and well-being of northerners.”

Patients and clients directly affected by service level changes will be contacted, as NH said it assesses impacts and reviews alternate options for care.

Read More: Physicians were suffering burnout and then the pandemic made it worse, UBC study finds


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